In June 2013, in a talk at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Md., Dr. Elias Zerhouni, NIH Director from 2002 to 2008, ended his presentation with three key lessons. The agency’s online newsletter, NIH Reporter, summarized one of them like this:
“We have moved away from studying human disease in humans,” he lamented. “We all drank the Kool-Aid on that one, me included. With the ability to knock in or knock out any gene in a mouse — which can’t sue us,” Zerhouni quipped, “researchers have over-relied on animal data. The problem is that it hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem. … We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies for use in humans to understand disease biology in humans.”
More than 45,000 dogs and 68,000 monkeys have been killed in Madison at UW-Madison and Covance over the past 10 years, according to reports submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by each facility. Many of these animals have endured multiple experimental procedures and profound environmental and social deprivation.
Supporters of this use of animals claim that their suffering is justified by the medical advancements that are being made, but verifiable evidence of much medical progress as a result of using these animals does not appear to exist.
Once upon a time it was possible to learn something that might have shed some light on human biology by experimenting on animals, but those days are long gone. We don’t need to open a dog’s chest and watch her heart beat to understand the circulatory system. Questions about human biology that are being researched through animal experimentation today aren’t being accurately answered.
This lack of clear benefit has resulted in scientists calling attention to what is sometimes referred to as the “translation problem.” Translating the results of experiments on animals into improved health care for humans has proved to be devilishly difficult. Senior scientists like Zerhouni are questioning the fundamental and explicit claim that what’s learned from experiments on one species can be productively applied to another species.
It is becoming more commonplace for scientists to look carefully at the real results of animal experimentation and to ask whether or not human patients have benefited from the use of animals as models of human biology. In an article published in May from Independent Science News, “The Experiment Is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown Into Doubt,” the writers report that a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a consortium of researchers suggests that product safety testing on animals (like much of that done at Covance on dogs and monkeys) may be worthless (Seok et al. 2013). The authors address the translation problem:
“The results of these experiments challenge the longstanding scientific presumption holding that animal experiments are of direct relevance to humans. For that reason they potentially invalidate the entire body of safety information that has been built up to distinguish safe chemicals from unsafe ones. The new results arise from basic medical research, which itself rests heavily on the idea that treatments can be developed in animals and transferred to humans.”
In late 2011, the National Academy of Sciences published a report on the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research and argued that most research using them or even keeping them in standard laboratory environments is unethical. Earlier this year, the NIH announced it was adopting most of the academy’s recommendations and dramatically reducing its sponsorship and involvement in medical research using chimpanzees. Both groups acknowledged that chimpanzees’ similarity to humans makes the standard experimental use of them ethically problematic.
This change in perspective and policy by such conservative bodies is due to the increasing recognition that many other animals share with us the capacity for both satisfaction and suffering, desire and a sense of loss. In fact, India announced just last month that dolphins are now “non-human persons” in the eyes of the law and has forbid the use of any cetaceans for entertainment purposes.
The change in NIH policy on chimpanzees brings the U.S. closer to the Western world’s norm. Prior to this change, only Gabon and the U.S. continued to allow experiments on chimpanzees. The NIH change is three-quarter’s of the way to endorsement of the modern ethical consensus.
These changes in understanding should cause us to think carefully and very critically about the thousands of dogs, monkeys, and other animals being hurt and killed in Madison in the name of science.
We should have an open discussion about this matter; increasing evidence of the very poor results from using animals, the realities of what they endure, and the accelerating consensus regarding their cognitive and emotional similarity to us — of at least the members of some other species — seems to demand this of us.
The secrecy that shields the laboratories’ use of animals from the public makes this hard to do. The lack of investigative journalism and reporting on the changing consensus and the many problems and accidents at the labs help to keep the matter hidden and out of sight. It’s past time for full disclosure and inclusive public discussion about the things being done to animals in the name of science and product safety here in Madison and throughout the country.
Madisonian Rick Bogle works for Alliance for Animals.
In the summer of 2004, the American Society of Primatology held its annual conference in Madison. At the time, I was working at the Harlow Primate Lab, one of two major primates laboratories at the UW-Madison that together house nearly 2,000 monkeys.
I put in a request to attend the conference. One of my bosses, the lab manager, asked if I planned to visit the animal rights counterconference that was going on at the same time. The question surprised me and sounded like an accusation. I said I hadn’t planned to do so, but if I saw protesters who were peaceful, I would have no problem talking with them, since my salary was paid by taxpayers.
The lab manager’s response: “What, are you going to turn into an animal rights person now?” I replied defensively, “No, of course not!”
Later that week, I overheard the lab manager telling other people in the building what I’d said. It wasn’t long before most everyone thought I was turning into an animal rights activist. Given that I had been trained to believe that animal rights people were ignorant, manipulative and violent, I was offended by this divisive labeling.
The principal investigator, my top supervisor, came to see me. “Look, Amy,” the investigator said, “I just want to explain this animal rights issue to you. I know if you spoke with someone, they could manipulate your words and put it in Isthmus and you would feel very, very bad if you read about our lab in a bad manner.”
I said, “I know, I will not speak about our research.”
Shortly afterward, the lab manager apprised me that I could no longer come in on weekends or work after hours — anytime I might be alone. These new constraints, on top of the discomfort I already felt about my work in the primate lab, made my job unbearable. Three months later, I resigned.
It was probably inevitable that I came to this end. During my five years at the Harlow Primate Lab, I had come to question the validity of the research and what I had come to believe was a callous attitude among many of the researchers. My efforts to introduce changes to reduce the stress of animals in our care were met with resistance.
But, perhaps most traumatic of all was watching what happened to a 5-year-old rhesus monkey I’ll call “Sam.” Of all I things I saw in the primate lab, that’s still the saddest story. Read full story here.
Steel yourselves, animal lovers. A few weeks ago, we told you that the National Institute of Health recommended that a majority of government-owned lab chimps be retired in the near future.
For 111 of these chimps, the largest group ever to be retired, this dream is now a reality. Over the next 12 to 15 months, lab chimps from across the country will be set free and will live out their days at Chimp Haven, a sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana.
The process has already started, and it is pure magic. Below, a few chimps see the sky and feel the grass for the first time in their lives.
MADISON, Wisconsin––Maternal deprivation research appears to be again underway at the Harry Harlow Primate Psychology Laboratory on the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin. “The research in question is a new type of maternal deprivation research designed to study anxiety by creating adverse early rearing conditions and then exposing the maternally deprived young [male] monkeys to a snake and other frightening stimuli.
The monkeys will be killed after the experiment is over and their brains will be studied,” summarized Wesleyan University professor of philosophy, feminist, gender, sexuality, and environmental studies Lori Gruen in an October 2012 critique of the experiments. “I believe this experiment is unethical and I also think it violates the spirit, if not the regulations, of the Animal Welfare Act,” Gruen concluded, “which explicitly requires that the psychological well-being of primates be promoted, not intentionally destroyed.”
Wrote lead experimenter and University of Wisconsin at Madison psychiatry department chair Ned Kalin in the research protocol he submitted in 2011 to the UW Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee, “At birth, infants will be removed from their mother and placed immediately in an incubator with a surrogate stuffed animal, towels, and/or blankets. As shown by Harlow (1958), infants will form attachment bonds to these items, which provide contact comfort as early as one day of life.” Added Kalin, apparently trying to distance his work from Harlow’s, “Unlike isolated monkeys, infants in the nursery will have full auditory and visual access to other animals, human caretakers, and/or television or radio. When mature enough, these animals will be paired with a peer.”
“It has been two decades since anyone at UW-Madison has isolated baby monkeys to cause them psychological trauma,” responded Alliance for Animals director Rick Bogle in an online response prepared for a local newspaper but then not published. “The university’s spin on their resumption of this cruelty is the assertion that the baby monkeys Kalin is isolating aren’t really isolated because someone comes by to feed them and clean up their incubators. They claim that because Kalin’s methods are not as extreme as some of Harlow’s methods, that they are not extreme at all.”
Obtaining Kalin’s research protocol in August 2012 through a Freedom of Information Act request, Bogle sought to stop the project, but it might by then have already started. “To the degree that I can say with some certainty that anything is happening at the university, the project is underway,” Bogle told ANIMAL PEOPLE
“I’m unaware of any approved protocols that have not started up once approved. It remains to be seen, however, whether all 20 of the infant monkeys [whom Kalin plans to use] have been removed from their mothers. I suspect that the number of available incubators and male births might be a limiting factor.
“One point should be clarified,” Bogle added. “Harlow’s work was primarily an investigation into the effects of varying degrees of social and environmental deprivation and ways in which the effects could be accelerated. Kalin’s project is using the well understood effects of maternal deprivation, early isolation, and peer-rearing as a tool to create highly anxious baby monkeys.” Kalin has done maternal deprivation experiments derivative of Harlow’s work before, Bogle explained in his online commentary.
However, “When Kalin began publishing the details of his [earlier] cruel experiments on monkeys in 1983,” Bogle wrote, “the profound similarity of human and nonhuman primate cognition and emotion was less well known,” Bogle acknowledged. “The idea that other primates have cultures, a sense of self, use tools, can add and learn the meaning of abstract symbols, can reason, and are like us is so many other ways was dismissed as preposterous.” This has all changed, but “Not once in Kalin’s defense of his maternal deprivation and fear-inducing terminal experiments,” Bogle continued, “does he try to explain why it would be moral to harm and kill animals he believes experience fear and anxiety much like our own.”
Noted Bogle, “Kalin’s experiments on monkeys have been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health since 1990. His grants have cost taxpayers over $5 million since 2000, without yielding discernible benefit to human patients.” Wrote Gruen, “There are many obvious ways to minimize the human suffering that results from anxiety disorders. In tough economic times, the provision of such services generally falls on charities that are already overburdened. Imagine how much real good the funds that UW researchers have used causing monkeys anxiety for 30 years could have done, directly serving those children who suffer so greatly.”
Committee for Research Accountability directors Rita Anderson and Barbara Millman announced in November 2003 that University of Colorado Health Sciences Center researcher Mark Laudenslager had ended his maternal deprivation research after 17 years. The line of experiments that began with Harlow was then believed to have ended. Harlow from 1930 to 1970 plunged generations of baby macaques and sometimes babies of other non-human primate species into stainless steel “pits of despair,” as he called them; subjected the babies to deliberately cruel robotic “mothers”; and allowed mother monkeys who had been driven insane by his experiments to abuse and kill their babies.
When Harlow semi-retired to a part-time post at the University of Arizona, other University of Wisconsin faculty including fellow maternal deprivation researchers Stephen J. Suomi and Gene Sackett immediately dismantled his lab. Suomi, now chief of the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, admitted to Deborah Blum, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Monkey Wars (1992) and Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection (2002) that the experiments gave him nightmares.
Sackett has attributed the subsequent rise of the animal rights movement in part to public revulsion at Harlow’s experiments, which by the early 1970s were already widely known and debated on university campuses. Seven years before the first action claimed by the “Animal Liberation Front,” a failed bombing at the University of Wisconsin Primate Research Center was at first believed to have been directed at stopping the maternal deprivation research, but was later found to have been a failed attempt by four anti-Vietnam War protesters to bomb the Army Mathematics Research Center across the street. The four succeeded on second try, killing post-doctorate math student Robert Fassnacht, who also opposed the war, and severely injuring three other students who had no involvement with the war. Harlow died in 1981, at age 76, a reputed drunk whose chief contribution to mainstream laboratory primatology was inventing the “rape rack,” a device for artificially inseminating primates.
But the University of Wisconsin primate lab was renamed in his honor, and has conducted many other controversial experiments. Bogle, then heading the Primate Freedom Project, moved to Madison in 2004 to renovate a building located between the National Primate Research Center at Madison and the Harry Harlow Primate Psychology Laboratory into a planned National Primate Research Center Exhibition Hall. Bogle expected it to become a rallying point for opposition to primate experiments. Retired California physician and animal advocate Richard McLellan had agreed to buy the building from bicycle shop owner Roger Charly. However, the university stalled the purchase through legal action and then reportedly paid Charly $1 million for it.
At the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Psychiatry Chair Ned H. Kalin, M.D. is removing newborn rhesus monkeys from their mothers and putting them in isolation for the first seven weeks of their lives. He plans to expose the infant monkeys to numerous frightening experiences, including being in close proximity to a live snake, and will kill the monkeys after one year to examine their brains. Dr. Kalin hopes to learn more about the physiological underpinnings of anxiety and to shed light on anxiety disorders in humans.
The experiments have prompted a growing protest from students and alumni of the university, as well as from animal welfare organizations and the general public. These groups contend that Kalin’s techniques exceed ethical boundaries. Rhesus monkeys normally spend the first month of their lives in literally uninterrupted physical contact with their mothers. According to researchers, in many ways their mother-infant bond is similar to humans: the mothers “kiss” their babies and have a “sustained mutual gaze,” indicating that rhesus monkeys have a “rich internal world.” It is evident from all we know about these animals that deprivation of nurturing from the mother causes extreme emotional trauma and psychic pain for the rhesus monkey infant.
There is a history of maternal deprivation research at the University of Wisconsin that goes back to the 1950s. Several generations of psychology textbooks have described Harry F. Harlow’s isolated rhesus monkey babies who preferred snuggling with their “terry cloth mothers” even though the milk they received came from the “wire mothers” on the other side of their barren enclosures. Harlow, and then his students, continued to use rhesus monkeys in various deprivation studies through the 1980s. These types of experiments have not been conducted at the University in over 20 years.
The current experiments at UW have alarmed other researchers and set off a controversy in the professional community. Guidelines specified in an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act of 1985 and a 1998 report by the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research addressing the psychological well-being of non-human primates are clearly violated by UW’s studies. Furthermore, there appears to be some questioning within the University’s oversight committee as to the usefulness of Dr. Kalin’s research and whether the admittedly extreme measures he uses justify hypotheses that are too general to have any real scientific consequence. The committee’s reluctance to withhold approval of maternal-deprivation studies despite these doubts is troubling and suggests a rubber-stamp mentality. What is even more troubling is that minutes from the oversight committee indicate some confusion on their part as to the extent of their authority to reject such protocols.
The result of the University’s irresponsibility regarding the stewardship of their primate program is the intense suffering of baby rhesus monkeys. Rick Bogle of Madison, Wisconsin’s Alliance for Animals describes Kalin’s project as “a backward moral leap” and the workings of the oversight committee as a kind of maze or “mental Möbius pretzel” where one keeps returning to “the same mistaken conclusions.” Lori Gruen, Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University and author of Ethics and Animals: An Introduction, comments “There was no oversight system in place back in the days when Harry Harlow’s experiments psychologically tormenting baby monkeys were making news. Surely that sort of horrible work in which infant primates are taken from their mothers to make them crazy wouldn’t be approved of today. On my recent visit to the University of Wisconsin I was shocked to learn otherwise.”
Dr. Kalin’s research is funded by a federal grant from the National Institutes of Health. He has received over five million dollars of taxpayer money in the past ten years.
The University of Wisconsin is at it again with the renewal of horrific “maternal deprivation tests.” Recently in hot water for their horrendous experiments on cats, the UW’s psychological tests on monkeys top the list of sadistic treatment of sentient beings.
What do the tests do?
Infant monkeys are immediately removed from their mothers after birth and kept in total isolation. They will be given “surrogate” materials known to provoke heightened anxieties. For 42 days, the confused infants will be subjected to relentless fear and panic-inducing tests while totally isolated. These tests include being intentionally terrified by human researchers, being left alone with a live King snake, and being left alone in a strange room with a strange monkey. They will then be killed and dissected.
Haven’t we done this before?
A 10 year study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has already determined that isolating infant monkeys leads to self-mutilation. Surely we could establish this common-sense observation without tormenting monkeys. Mammals, particularly primates, rely upon their mother for safety and nurturance crucial to their psychological well-being. One only needs to observe humans, or animals in the wild, to see that distressing experiences, while deprived of one’s mother, are terrifically destructive. There is no justification for continually frightening baby monkeys and depriving them of basic care.
In the late 1950s, Harry Harlow’s infamous University of Wisconsin tests, in which he psychologically tortured baby monkeys, caused such an outcry that amendments were later made to strengthen the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is the only federal law that protects animals used in laboratories. With these amendments, the law establishes that infant animals should receive special protections and, particularly, receive care for their psychological well-being. Yet, here we go again. Read the entire article here:
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is facing criticism for controversial experiments involving Rhesus monkeys. In these experiments, baby monkeys are separated from their mothers after birth and later subjected to tests to provoke fear and anxiety. The monkeys are then killed so that their brains can be dissected and studied.
Jane Velez-Mitchell moderated a first of its kind debate on these maternal deprivation experiments. Eric Sandgren, Director of the Research and Animal Resources Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Rick Bogle of Madison, Wisconsin’s Alliance for Animals, who organized a campaign to stop these experiments, debated both sides of the argument. Those opposed to the experiments have started the site UWnotinourname.org.